<039><040> KJV Text: 28 And [the angel] (This part of the text is not in the Nestle/Aland 26 text, but it is in the majority text published by Hodges) came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: [blessed art thou among women.] (This part of the text is not in the Nestle/Aland 26 text, but it is in the majority text) 29 And when [she saw him] (This part of the text is not in the Nestle/Aland 26 text, but, again, it is in the majority text), she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. Luke's Record: Notes: Luke's Emphasis: When one looks at the two verses as a unit, it is clear that Luke wanted Theophilus to understand that Mary's reaction to Gabriel's salutation was one of 'troubled reasoning'. It is not that she was troubled by what she saw, but by what she heard. This emphasis means that of all of the variations in the textual traditions regarding this couplet the only one that has any significant bearing in this case is the question of whether Gabriel said "Blessed are you among women", or not. Was Mary disturbed because of this declaration, or was she disturbed by the statement that she was "highly favored" and "the Lord is with her"? There is no way to absolutely decide this (as the "B" rating in the textual commentary on the Nestle/Aland 26 text attests), but there is no good reason to think that "streamlining the text" was involved since the repetitious "virgin" in the preceding verse would have been deleted if streamlining was in vogue. Therefore, the omission probably stands; and, that means that Mary is being recorded as being troubled by a salutation that makes her a special object of grace. [It is interesting to note that the issue of "greeting" is jumped up several notches in 1:39-45 where it is a focus of the paragraph in that it is repeated three times. It is also very probable that Mary needed Elizabeth's strong words of confirmation to fortify her against the public reaction that is inevitably going to come when it is known that she is pregnant out of wedlock.] This means, then, that Luke is deliberately focusing upon the difficulty folks have with "grace". Zacharias is portrayed as frankly disbelieving that he was to be "graced" and as having a significant problem in seeing Yahweh as gracious as a primary characteristic (thus, the name "John"). In this text, Mary is significantly disturbed by the salutation that claims she is highly "graced". The Issue Before Us: The question before us is this: what is the difficulty that people have with "grace"? Why did Luke think Theophilus would need to understand that it is rather typical for people to not relate to grace very well.? Is it fundamental to human nature to shy away from grace? Is one of man's fundamental problems a problem relating to a God Who is fundamentally "gracious"? Some Facts to Consider: The "grace" of God has a double focus. On one hand, grace signifies a character which intensely desires to bring good into the life of the object of grace. It is never said of grace that it seeks evil for objects of grace. On the other hand, grace signifies a character that does not relinquish its decision-making power to another. It is not grace if the good that is to come is leveraged (I owe you this by reason of something you have done). This double focus creates all manner of problems for man in his post-Genesis-3 condition. On the one hand, the accusation in Genesis 3 which found fertile soil in Adam's heart/mind was the implied charge that God was restricting Adam from something that was "good". This implied charge had huge overtones regarding the character of the One doing the restricting. These overtones directly contradict the very essence of grace as a "goodness-seeking" characterization. On the other hand, once the overtones are incorporated into the "song", there is no escape from the need to be able to control the decision-making process. If God does not seek my good, I must do what I can to try to dominate the decision-making process that has to do with whether I receive good, or not. Thus, the double focus of grace creates all manner of problems for fallen man at a very real foundational level. If there is a fundamental problem that man has with God, it is to be found in these two issues: if God is really gracious, why am I at risk here? (a variation on the question: Is God good?); and, if I am at risk here, who, better than I, should be permitted to make the decisions about me and that risk? (a variation on the theme: Ought not I be the one to occupy the throne?) Interestingly, the risk is real. Grace isn't the only attribute of God! But, just as interesting, no one who depends upon the grace of God ever finds Him compelled by His sense of justice to bring final disaster into his experience. In a very real sense, God treats us like we expect Him to. If our expectation is great harm because we reject grace, great harm is what we experience. But, if our expectation is good by grace, good by grace is what we experience. Thus, faith really is the bottom line just as was demonstrated in Genesis 3 and is forcefully declared on all of the pages of Scripture. When a creature embraces the evil heart of unbelief regarding the essential goodness of God, he moves in ways that are enormously destructive to himself and all others upon whom he bears impact. The only way the gracious God can produce good for all of those "others" is for Him to eliminate the doer of the destruction -- i.e. to fulfill the expectation of the wicked that God will do great harm to him! Thus the wicked can always say, "My experience proves my perception that God is evil was correct" even though it is altogether untrue. It is not evil in God that seeks the destruction of the wicked; rather, it is justice in harness with the goodness of God Who seeks good for those who are being destroyed by the wicked. There are only two ways the wicked can be blocked from making a death-impact upon others: one is for the wicked to come to a different kind of faith that produces life-impacting behaviors; the other is to remove the wicked to a place where his behaviors can not impact the experience of those who seek to live. This removal can be by way of annihilation, or by imprisonment. Since annihilation is eliminated by the requirements of justice, only eternal imprisonment can occur. Thus the doctrine of eternal Hell.